Home Affairs Committee

Police use of 999 calls in domestic violence cases

Following a presentation on Tuesday 15 June, the Committee has written to the Home Secretary to highlight an initiative introduced by Staffordshire Police to record and use 999 calls as evidence in initial interviews. The initiative has particular relevance in domestic violence cases. The Committee was "astounded" that in no other force in the country is there a similar system for use of 999 calls, and has called on the Home Secretary to evaluate the initiative and encourage the development of a similar system across all police forces.

Rt Hon Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"The Committee were totally shocked that the system put in by Staffordshire police to help in the prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence is not standard practice elsewhere. We felt very strongly that we should recommend to the Home secretary the implementation of this scheme."

A copy of the letter from the Chairman of the Committee to the Home Secretary is attached.


Letter to Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, MP, Home Secretary

Police use of 999 calls in initial interviews in domestic violence cases

The Home Affairs Committee this week received a presentation from Staffordshire Police as part of our inquiry into 'Policing in the 21st century'. The presentation included description of a technological innovation by Staffordshire Police, called 'WEBplayer 999', through which all incoming and outgoing telephone calls to the Force are centrally recorded. This system means that all 999 calls can now be listened to and downloaded from any computer across the force as soon as the call is made.

This innovation has allowed police officers to use 999 calls as evidence during initial interviews with defendants and during disclosure to both Prosecution and defence solicitors. It allows the call to be copied onto disc which can be played in custody interview disclosure suites.

WEBplayer999 has been particularly used in cases of domestic violence. Staffordshire Police told us that prior to this system, which the force has developed entirely in-house, the process of accessing a 999 call, and having its use approved, would take 4-6 weeks. During this time the defendant would have to be placed on police bail.

Police officers told us that this initiative has been introduced across Staffordshire at no extra cost. More importantly, it has provided corroborative evidence for victims of domestic violence, often encouraging them to continue in their complaint and reassuring them about the effectiveness of the police. The system has also assisted the police domestic violence team in making more informed risk assessments to protect the most vulnerable victims.

The Committee applauds the Staffordshire initiative. However, we were astounded to hear that in no other force in the country is there a similar system for expeditious recording and use of 999 calls, when the benefits of the system in terms of protecting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice are clear.

I therefore write to you on behalf of the Committee to ask you to evaluate the Staffordshire initiative and to ensure that all police forces across the country are encouraged in the strongest terms to adopt systems which will achieve similar results.

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP